Posters, broadsides, figurines, game-used uniforms, schedules and cards. Gus LeDonne collected them all. LeDonne, an accountant who lived in Chicago died in August 2013. Now, his memorabilia collection is about to be broken up and sold.
More than 1,000 eclectic items — with a big emphasis on football — go on the block during a live two-day auction beginning July 23 in Ottawa, Illinois. The bidding will be handled by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers, and Internet bids already are being accepted. The auction will have 500 items for sale on the first day, and more than 450 on Day 2.
Matthew Bullock, the owner/auctioneer of Matthew Bullock Auctioneers, is a second-generation antique dealer who says he has a love for history. The story of football is chronicled through LeDonne’s huge collection, which includes everything from decades-old game-worn jerseys to signs promoting long ago games and seasons.
There are dozens of vintage game-worn NFL and college jerseys including a 1960 Y.A. Tittle 49ers durene jersey, signed by the Hall of Fame quarterback. It carries an opening bid of $10,000.
There’s a 1960s Lou Groza Browns jersey, one donned by Sam Huff in 1964, a 1969 Jack Pardee Rams uniform, a 1996 Jerry Rice 49ers shirt, a 1994 Barry Sanders Lions jersey, an early 70s LeRoy Kelly Pro Bowl jersey and another worn by Bills’ great Billy Shaw in the 1960s. Bullock sent the jerseys to Memorabilia Evaluation and Research Services (MEARS), in Milwaukee for authentication and several have been given an A10 rating by the company.
“With the early jerseys, he really liked seeing the ones that were team repaired,” Bullock said of LeDonne’s search.
One interesting early football piece is a broadside advertising Red Grange and the Chicago Bears facing Buck Bailey and the San Francisco Tigers on January 24, 1926. This was part of the Bears’ 19-game, 66-day tour during the winter of 1925-26. Grange and the Bears lost 14-9 to the Tigers at Kezar Stadium. The broadside measures 15½ inches by 23 inches.
There are numerous other Bears broadsides and oversized schedules that hung in various places around the city or were placed on counters as the club worked to promote the new sport of professional football.
There is a 1968 die-cut schedule for the Baltimore Colts. This is notable because while the Colts ran roughshod through the NFL with a 13-1 record, they lost Super Bowl III to the New York Jets in a historic upset. The item is listed in “exceptional” condition and measures 11 inches by 14 inches.
Another item is a 1949 schedule for Miami of Ohio printed on heavy cardboard and measuring 16 inches by 23½ inches. Team captain Ernest Plank is featured, along with his coach — Woody Hayes.
A collection of four Florida State University football schedule proofs from 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1958 is noteworthy for the ’58 proof. That was the first year the Seminoles would play against the University of Florida.
Boxing also will have a prominent spot in the auction, as posters from championship fights — including a closed-circuit TV broadside of Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier in 1971, plus posters of Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn (1946), Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott (1952) and Jake LaMotta vs. O’Neil Bell (1946).
Bullock said his favorite item was a 1955 wooden ticket sign for the 49ers. The 18-inch by 42-inch sign hung at the box office of Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. It is hand painted on wood, with metal brackets at the top.
The higher ticket items will be sold Sunday, but there is plenty of memorabilia to go around — including a pair of basketball shorts purportedly worn by NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain during the 1961-62 season. The opening bid is $7,500.
Bullock has been involved in auctions “for most of my adult life.” Estate sales, too. He’s no Realtor, but this might be the first time Bullock has been involved in a, ahem, shorts sale.
Bidding begins at 10 AM Central time each day. There is an internet buyer’s premium of 20 percent.